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  • Final Report Summary - AE-FOOTPRINT (The agri-environmental footprint: Development of a common generic methodology for evaluating the effectiveness of European agri-environmental schemes)

AE-FOOTPRINT Report Summary

Project ID: 6491
Funded under: FP6-POLICIES
Country: United Kingdom

Final Report Summary - AE-FOOTPRINT (The agri-environmental footprint: Development of a common generic methodology for evaluating the effectiveness of European agri-environmental schemes)

The AE-FOOTPRINT project aimed to develop a farm level agri-environmental footprint index (AFI) to aggregate the measurement of appropriate indicators in order to allow for identification of the environmental footprint of particular farms.

A multi-criteria analysis approach was implemented, using weighted indicators to reflect the importance placed on them by stakeholders with reference to the particular environmental issues and farm types that were prevalent in a specific context. Farms were given scores against each indicator, reflecting either environmental value or impact, and the scores were combined with the weights to calculate a structure index. Therefore, the developed methods were sufficiently generic to track overall European-wide performance, while being customisable for the very wide variety of agronomic, environmental and cultural conditions across the continent.

The AFI concept was developed as a harmonised assessment tool which was evaluated through a feasibility study, conducted with the assistance of stakeholders in each country. In total, 15 selected case studies were examined in a contrasting range of farming systems across Europe. An outline cost and benefit analysis related to the methodology was also undertaken. Finally, the potential further uses of the AFI methodology were explored, both as an auditing tool to compare and assess the wider environmental characteristics of different forms of agriculture in various geographical regions and as a tool with which to manage and encourage further development of the concept of multifunctional agriculture and sustainable rural development.

The project resulted in the development of a database of agri-environmental issues which helped to identify local or regional problems that were addressed through agri-environmental schemes (AES). The hierarchical nature of objective setting was highlighted, with many common concerns being identified at the European level and addressed through the identification of regional and local objectives. Large variations were observed in the type of impact models underlying the schemes and in the way these impact models were described in research programmes' proposals and evaluations. Since biodiversity was a more complex and context dependent problem than natural resources, it was not surprising that impact models related to the latter were more elaborated than the ones related to biodiversity. For landscape, the existence of relatively few impact models could be related to the ambiguity in the very complex definition of the issue.

The project led to the conceptual and practical development of a harmonised assessment methodology which took into account the abovementioned considerations and facilitated the evaluation of the environmental performance of European AES. It was therefore anticipated that AE-FOOTPRINT would contribute to the integration of environmental concerns into the Common Agricultural Policy. Thus, the project would be useful for various stakeholders such as national and international policy makers, national and regional farming organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), scientific and special interest groups.

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